My take: Best of Boston 2013

Photo of August 2013 cover

Courtesy of Boston magazine

I’m always excited when Boston magazine releases its annual “Best of Boston” list. This year, the guide celebrates its 40th Anniversary, and I’ve never been so thrilled to review and discover all the new winners. Although I’ve lived in this city for almost four years, there are always new shops, restaurants, and sites to see. This compilation continues to do three things for me:

  • Reaffirms the greatness of places I already know
  • Unearths new locations to check out
  • Reminds me to GO to that awesome spot everyone’s been talking about already!

From the 2013 list, I concur:

Best Bookstore: Brookline Booksmith

Photo of antique postcard

Courtesy of the “Find of the Week” archive

I work conveniently, dangerously close to this gem of a bookshop. I could get lost for hours between the shelves, boasting their rare titles and colorful spines. Don’t even get me started on the charming kid’s corner tucked in the back, the handmade and locally designed greeting cards, the gorgeous stationary… And the extensive used book selection in the basement, where book signings, author events, and workshops are regularly held. The friendly staff makes a point to connect with their patrons and the Brookline community. Check out the  Find of the Week archive on their website, where they post pictures of items found between the pages of their used books –everything from antique postcards, to long lost letters, to notes scribbled in the margins.

Best New Restaurant (Nantucket): Cru

Photo of Nantucket waterfront

I’m no Nantucket expert, but I had the pleasure of enjoying a breezy, sunny lunch at this beautiful spot right on the water. Really, the location makes it perfect for any occasion, whether it is a quick lunch, lazy, mid-afternoon cocktails, or a decadent dinner. Seated in comfy, yellow striped armchairs next to the window, with a front row view of the docks, I devoured the single best crab appetizer I’ve ever had: Blue Crab Cocktail in a Horseradish Crème. If you’re on the island, just do it.

Best Spanish: Toro

Photo of Toro Restaurant

Courtesy of Just Meat It

Toro is for the adventurous. If you’ve been gastronomically deprived for much of your life, you won’t know what you’re eating. If you’re picky, you won’t want to know. But you’ll love it nonetheless. Tucked in between other, virtually abandoned establishments, this tiny place will be bursting on the coldest of winter nights. Soak in the rustic atmosphere, the exposed brick and wide-plank wooden floors, while soaking up a glass of spicy Rioja. If you’re hesitant to completely blow your palate away, ease yourself in and start with the more approachable Datiles con Jamon (Medjool dates filled with marcona almonds and blue cheese, wrapped in serrano ham) and the Queso Mahon (marinated cow’s milk cheese). Then take the plunge, and follow with the Asado de Huesos (bone marrow with radish citrus salad and oxtail marmalade), and the Corazon (smoked beef heart with romesco).

New to check out:

Best Chocolate: Evelyn & Angel’s 

Courtesy of Mandarina Studio

Courtesy of Mandarina Studio

There are few things I love in this world more than chocolate, which is why I must ask: Why haven’t I even heard of this place? How long have they been there? Why has no one told me? I’ve been a longtime fan of Beacon Hill Chocolates on Charles Street, but if this new competitor is “Boston’s Best” then a trip out to Porter Square is absolutely necessary.

Best New Restaurant: Asta

Photo of Asta

Courtesy of Boston Grub Street

This would certainly be a splurge, but I’ve heard great things about this new hot spot: a high-end concept in a casual setting. Asta offers a playful approach to a purely prix fixe menu, with three-, five-, and eight-course tasting options available.  Constantly rotating and seasonal dishes keep the menu fresh and unpredictable, like a seaweed pasta topped with a mussel foam and a whole squid with black chickpeas.

Best Al Fresco Restaurant: Hamersley’s Bistro

Photo of Hamersley's Bistro  patio

Courtesy of Boston Magazine

Hamersley’s Bistro in the South End is neither new to Boston or the dining masses, but it’s been on my list for awhile.  During my junior year of college, I walked past its elegant “secret garden” patio everyday on the way to my South End internship. This beautiful weather won’t last and, in my opinion, al fresco is the best way to dine. I hope to get on that patio for brunch, dinner, drinks, anything before summer is over.

Why haven’t I been there yet?!

Best Deli: Michael’s Deli

Photo of Michael's Deli

Courtesy of Trip Advisor

I walk past this hole in the wall, and acknowledge the front window plastered with awards and reviews, every day on my way to work. I’m always looking for a good sandwich. I work in Coolidge. I have no excuse.

Best Restaurant, General Excellence: Hungry Mother

Photo of Hungry Mother Restaurant

Courtesy of Gastronomy blog

I generally wouldn’t put “Southern Comfort” at the top of my dining list, but I’ve heard too many good things, from too many people who are near and dear to my heart. I feel like I’m being shielded from a badly kept secret, or missing the punch line of a really obvious joke. Someone, please, enlighten me –let’s go to Hungry Mother!

Best Wine Bar: Belly Wine Bar

Courtesy of Swallow Daily

Courtesy of Swallow Daily

I have been dying to try this place since it opened in Kendall Square last September. They boast an eclectic and unpretentious wine list (check out their current, Grease-inspired Summer Lovin’ list) and an extensive charcuterie and raw bar selection. Another beautiful, brick-laden patio is just the cherry on top. This spot looks right up my alley.

Summer, so far

Screen Shot 2013-07-14 at 11.44.56 AM

Recent travels to Philly and Nantucket, followed by a particularly jam-packed 4th of July weekend put my writing and updates on hold. But now I’m back in Boston to catch my breath (for a minute). It’s been a weekend of “housekeeping” and I thought I’d do the same for my blog. This is the perfect opportunity to check the progress of my bucket list, now that we’re (already?) more than halfway through summer:

  • Write something everyday. Even if it’s just a thought or a Tweet
    • So far, so good! Tweeting all day, everyday at @BtwnLines.
  • Post to this blog at least once per week
    • With the exception of last week…
  • Go kayaking on the Charles River AGAIN
    • STILL NEED TO DO THIS!
  • Spend as much time as possible with my amazing friends
    • Best 4th of July weekend ever and looking forward to more summer fun 🙂
  • Reconnect with old friends
    • Recent reconnections and upcoming date nights scheduled!
  • Go to a wine tasting
  • Discover some awesome new restaurants and bars
    • In Boston, New York, and on Nantucket  –and always looking for more.
  • Wander through outdoor markets on the weekends
    • Found an awesome cigarette tin at the 34th St. outdoor market in New York.
  • Soak up some culture at local museums, parks, festivals…
    • Fenway counts as a park, right? Need to work on this one…
  • Take my cooking to a new level and try some new recipes (like learn to make ice cream)
  • Find the best ice cream in the city if/when I fail at making my own
    • In leaving this goal virtually unfulfilled, I will always be on the hunt for better ice cream (and have an excuse to eat more).
    • Please note: Fresh cucumber ice cream is back at JP Licks for July!
  • Find a few beautiful new places to run
    • Been going the same route for awhile, but want to get out to Jamaica Pond.
  • Read. Lots of articles, blogs, and at least 10 books:

A few of my favorite sites & blogs:

Already read:

    • Girl with a Pearl Earring, Tracy Chevalier
    • And the Mountains Echoed, by Khaled Hosseini (my review)
    • We Live in Water, Jess Walter
    • TransAtlantic, Colum McCann

Currently reading:

    • Tinkers, Paul Harding

On the list:

    • Americanah, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
    • The Cuckoo’s Nest, Robert Gailbraith (aka JK Rowling)
    • Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore, Robin Sloan
    • Beautiful Ruins, Jess Walter
    • This is How You Lose Her, Junot Diaz
    • … always open to more suggestions!
  • Do outdoor yoga
    • The Liberty Hotel offers complimentary community yoga classes on Saturdays at 10am! On nice days, these take place outside on their patio.
  • Grow my indoor garden with potted plants and herbs (and keep them alive…)
    • Hayden (by basil plant) is just hanging by thread, but trying to revive him!
  • Take a class: An art class, computer workshop, or even a webinar on finance management
    • If time is of the essence, all my contracts are broken.
  • Discover some new bookstores (preferably indie and perfectly charming)
    • Two adorable bookshops on Nantucket, and again, always looking for more.
  • Walk everywhere and spend as much time outdoors as possible
    • Check!
  • Get completely lost visiting a place I’ve never been before
    • Really, this is not difficult for me to do. I get lost in my own neighborhood.
  • Have several deep and meaningful conversations with the people I love
    • Yes!
  • Do some traveling: Already booked to visit my family twice this summer
    • Back home in three weeks!
  • Take a few moments each day to bask in perfect happiness
    • 🙂

Halfway through summer, and halfway through my list! This is not to say, however, that my strikethroughs indicate a permanent “check.” I absolutely plan to spend as much time as possible with friends, and do more reading, writing, cooking, traveling, experimenting, discovering, wallowing in happiness. And, of course, continue to get lost between the lines.

Weekend Excursion: Nantucket

Photo of Nantucket

Nantucket

Summer is still more than a month away and I can already start crossing items off of my bucket list. My visit to Nantucket was more of an abbreviated weekend trip —I was only on the island for about 20 hours. But I was lucky to visit on the most beautiful spring day and for one of Nantucket’s most time honored holidays: Daffodil Weekend.

Photo of daffodils

Daffodils in bloom

“Daffy” as it’s called, celebrates the millions of colorful daffodils that bloom across the island from early April to mid-May. While an antique car parade is considered the highlight of the festivities, I unfortunately arrived to the island at the tail end of this tailgate party. I was still able to enjoy the decorated storefronts and inhabitants donning bright shades of yellow: girls pranced down the streets with floppy flowers pinned in their hair, and poor, helpless puppies were amusingly subjected to wearing the same garb.

Highlights of my trip include:

Walking around town

Photo of Town

Town

Photo of Nantucket Catholic Church

Nantucket Catholic Church

Photo of Nantucket House

Prettiest house on the island

Photo of Nantucket Library

The Nantucket Library

Visiting the bookshop, Nantucket Bookworks

Photo of Nantucket Bookshop

A gem of a bookstore

Napping in the sunny reading alcove in front of the Nantucket Library

Photo of reading alcove

Reading alcove

Dinner at The SeaGrille Restaurant

Photo of SeaGrille Restaurant

Courtesy of The SeaGrille

Order the Mussels with Dill, Dijon & Fennel

Photo of the mussels

Courtesy of The SeaGrille

Breakfast at Black Eyed Susan’s

Photo of Chandelier

Pretty chandelier inside

This island is saturated with the quaintness that pervades every small New England town: slower pace, cobbled streets, shuttered windows, and all. Bikes are the preferred mode of transportation, and are commonly seen carrying books or flowers in their baskets. A symphony of singing birds set the soundtrack for the day and bright stars embellish the sky at night. Neighbors collaborate, rather than co-exist, and every single person you pass on the street will say “hello.”

Photo of tossing penny off ferry

I’ll be back!

Paying a visit to such a low-key place was a welcome change to my more hectic city life. On the ferry back to “America” I threw a penny into the water while rounding the Brant Point Lighthouse, to ensure a trip back. Now I just need to re-learn how to ride a bike. I’ll add it to the bucket list.